With great respect to the Heat’s amazing streak earlier in the season in which they won 21 of 22 games, they were not playing their best ball of the season.
That’s because they’re playing at their best right now, even despite their recent home loss to the Thunder.
They just took out the two Western giants in the Lakers and Spurs after hitting rock bottom just days before in the midst of a five-game losing streak. They’re nearing the final stretch with just 15 games remaining.
Sure, a three-game sample size isn’t statistically significant by any means, but their recent play has been promising, not because of the end result but because of how they’re getting there.
1. Chris Bosh is in attack mode
First off, Chris Bosh is a changed player. It’s like someone operated on his brain after the Portland game and triggered “beast mode.”
For Miami’s current three-game win streak, he’s averaging 24.0 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting the ball at an electrifying rate of 61 percent. His aggressiveness on both ends of the court cannot be overstated.
We know he has a sweet jumper, but by attacking the rim first, he has become a terror to defend. The Heat need the new Bosh to stay.
2. The ball is moving
Gone is the isolation offense. The one where LeBron James or Dwyane Wade sits with the ball at the top of the key and dribbles for 15 seconds before attacking the defense one on five.
In is an offense where the ball is moving, where there is some trust among the three stars and their teammates. LeBron is still getting his points, but not at the cost of slowing down the team.
A defense has it much easier when it knows where the point of attack will be. With the ball constantly moving, the defense is forced to take into account many more variables, thus making their job more difficult.
3. Bodies are moving
Wade especially has taken it upon himself to be a factor when the ball isn’t in his hands. It’s been a very difficult adjustment for him, because he’s never had to even think about that scenario in his basketball career until now.
I didn’t know Wade knew how to set a screen until the Spurs game on Monday. He even set one on back-to-back possessions. I was in a joyful state of shock.
He’s also doing a great job of cutting off the ball. He’s realized when LeBron has the ball in his hands, the defense doesn’t even see him.
How can they when they have to take measures to keep a 6’8″, 270-pound freak of nature from getting into the lane?
For the Heat offense to be at their best, LeBron or Wade must always be active away from the ball.
4. Defensive intensity
Over the course of the season, the Heat have been a very good defensive team, albeit with spurts of negligence. They currently rank fifth in defensive efficiency, the truest measure of great defensive teams.
The difference between the defense now and at other points of the season is Wade.
Wade wasn’t giving his all on the defensive side for most of the season. Up until the Laker game last week, that is, I couldn’t remember one game where he was dialed in and gave maximum defensive effort.
When LeBron and Dwyane are locked in defensively, the offense is lost. They simply do not know what to do and have so much trouble getting good shots off. Watching them force back-to-back 24 second violations against San Antonio was astounding.
5. 15 Strong
When it’s all said and done, this is a team sport. It’s why I cannot stand the argument for which player is better based on championship rings. No player in NBA history has ever truly won alone.
It’s an absolute joke.
So Adam Morrison (2 rings) is better than LeBron (0) or Wade (1)? Get serious. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan never won rings without some significant help. I hate that nonsense. It’s pure ignorance to the game of basketball.
I give major props to Jamaal Magloire and Juwan Howard. Both have experienced roller-coaster minutes this year. Yet after lengthy spurts where both didn’t see any court time, they have given this team a boost this past week.
Everyone has a role, and the Heat players are starting to get into theirs. LeBron has to realize scoring 30 may not be what’s best for this team.
He is the primary facilitator, and it his duty to get everyone involved. Wade should be the primary perimeter scorer, while Bosh needs to be established early and often inside.
Finally, these players are starting to get it. They’re finally building some cohesiveness, something they’ve lacked on a consistent basis.
It’s a team game, don’t forget it.